When Sally and I (and a few readers of this blog joined Youth for Christ in the early 80s, one of our visiting lecturers was one of the early gurus of Christian Youth Work, Bob Moffett. He was an experienced Centre Director in Epping Forest in Essex, was writing in Buzz (a forerunner of Youthwork) and published books of resources.
I can still remember a question he asked us in a session, and this is over 30 years ago. We were about to go out and serve local churches for the next eleven months and his challenge to a room full of people in their late teens and early 20s with egos and hormones was “what do you do when someone tells you ‘you are wonderful?’” We shouted out our answers “Say thank you”, “how discerning of you”. Bob’s responded with a range of neutral comments. He finally put us out of our misery by saying “what you should do when someone tells you you are wonderful is don’t believe it”. I remember many of us being shocked by such an ungracious and obviously untruthful response. His justification was if we go around believing all the good things said to us then we are more likely to believe all the negative things as well and this wasn’t helpful. And even if we only had nice things said to us it could go to our heads and we could start to act like we thought we were wonderful! I have sought to draw upon this wisdom for the past 32 years of being in ministry.
Today there was an article about me and my work at the children’s hospital in the Sunday Telegraph. It was a very nice complimentary piece, there were a few inaccuracies but nothing negative about me, our patients, their families or our hospital Wow me in a positive article in the nationals!! Nice. But as Bob’s words remind me it can be dangerous to believe our own press, I know I am not particularly special – as you will know if you have watched the show all my team do this sort of work.
So how should I respond? Well I am thankful it is a positive article (thanks Julia) and yes it would be false modesty to say it’s not a nice thing to see your name in print and for your work to be praised. Interestingly, this afternoon we went to a service at the Cathedral to welcome the new Archdeacon of Aston, Simon Heathfield and an old friend and colleague of his in the sermon warned of the dangers of being like Solomon who asked for wisdom at the beginning of his reign but towards the end forgot who was King. She encouraged him to start everyday focusing on Jesus as King – a great bit of advice. If I see Jesus as King then I remember that it is him I am serving and God that has given me the gifts to do what it is I do.
Link to Telegraph article if you want to read it: